Sleeping pill sends passenger berserk

By Mike Behr, Daily Mail

Last updated at 09:08 06 October 2003

A British advertising executive was sedated and handcuffed to his first-class seat after going berserk on a flight to South Africa, it emerged yesterday. Five men were needed to subdue Mark Hurst after he started lashing out on a South African Airways flight to Cape Town.

The businessman attacked cabin crew and even tried to kick in a window during the struggle.

He was arrested after the plane touched down at Cape Town International Airport and appeared in court, although the charges were later dropped.

Mr Hurst - who says he remembers nothing of the incident - was cleared and has blamed his behaviour on a sleeping pill he took after the plane left London's Heathrow airport last Tuesday.

The trouble started sometime later, when he got up from his seat and fell on top of another sleeping passenger.

When a member of the cabin crew came to assist, Mr Hurst turned violent and lashed out.

He put up such a struggle that it took five men to wrestle him to the floor. One of them was a business- class passenger who rushed into first class after hearing the commotion.

'There were five of us, but his strength was phenomenal,' said purser Mike Badenhorst. 'When he was lashing out he even tried to kick out a window.'

The crew considered diverting the flight but changed their minds after hearing that a doctor was onboard.

Instead, Mr Hurst was sedated and handcuffed to his seat and his legs secured with seat belts.

Passengers insisted on having a cabin attendant stand guard in case he escaped and turned violent again.

Mr Hurst appeared in Cape Town Court last Friday but the charges - brought under the Aviation Act -were later withdrawn.

A prosecutor said: 'We could not prove that the passenger intended to endanger the flight.'

Mr Hurst - who was involved in a television advertisement for an alcoholic drink starring a hardpartyingcat - told crew membershe remembered nothing of the incident.

He said he recalled drinking vodka and a mixer and watching a film before taking the sleeping pill and blacking out.

'I travel around the world and normally use a herbal sedative, which I didn't have,' said the businessman, who claimed his mistake was to accept the sleeping pill from another passenger.

'I had two drinks, did not eat, watched the movie and went to sleep. When I woke I found myself handcuffed to the seat.'

Mr Badenhorst said he believed the combination of drinking and taking a pill turned Mr Hurst from a placid passenger into a raving maniac.

'I've seen this sort of thing before. The danger is combining the two,' he said.

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